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Pioneering UEA research aims to reduce asthma deaths in the UK

Tue, 18 Nov 2014

A University of East Anglia (UEA) project to reduce the high number of avoidable asthma deaths has been awarded £1.7 million in funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The project aims to identify people most at risk of an asthma attack. It will examine whether introducing a register of people at risk and training medical staff to provide these patients with on-going specialist support will reduce their likelihood of being hospitalised or suffering a life-threatening asthma attack.

This research comes at a critical time following the publication of the National Review of Asthma Deaths by the Royal College of Physicians.

Three people die of asthma every day in the UK and the National Review identified that as many as two thirds of these deaths could have been avoided. In many cases the warning signs were ignored and more than two thirds of people hospitalised in the month before they died didn't get properly checked up afterwards.

Past attacks are a clear risk factor for future attacks and everyone who is hospitalised due to asthma should see their GP within 48 hours of leaving hospital. However Asthma UK's Compare Your Care report 2013 discovered that three quarters (74 per cent) of people with asthma did not have a follow up appointment.

Lead researcher Dr Andrew Wilson, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, said: "Identifying and targeting care to patients most at risk of asthma attacks and developing methods to deal with the variable standard of care in the UK are important national treatment strategies. Previous research supported by Asthma UK shows that this approach halved the number of hospitalisations and was cost effective."

The project features as a key part of the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research, a collaborative partnership of 13 of the UK's leading academic organisations focusing on addressing the practical problems people with asthma face every day. This includes halving the development time of much needed new medicines and treatments through clinical trials to lead directly to improved care.

Prof Aziz Sheikh, director of the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research said: "We're delighted the centre will benefit from Andrew's expertise. The centre addresses the very real need for a collaborative approach that can facilitate large scale UK based trials for research like this, which could benefit millions of people affected by asthma."

Kay Boycott, chief executive of Asthma UK said: "The UK has the worst death rate amongst OECD countries for respiratory disease and every 10 seconds someone is having a life-threatening asthma attack. Despite this, asthma research is chronically underfunded so we look forward to working with Dr Wilson on this groundbreaking research which could revolutionise asthma care and reduce the shockingly high numbers of people dying from this common condition."